12 people have been charged for various, unrelated mortgage and real estate scams:
Victor Koltun and Jarrett Haber have been charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Residential Mortgage Fraud, and Possession of a Forged Instrument. In October 2009, Jean Kemp, a senior citizen, received a phone call demanding payment on her mortgage. However, Kemp and her husband, who lives in a nursing home, have owned their home since 1975 and have not had a mortgage on it since 1987. Kemp reported the call to the Brooklyn office of State Senator Kruger, where attorneys, including a former intern in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Rackets Division, discovered a new $225,000 mortgage on the home. Sen. Kruger contacted the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, which investigated. Prosecutors and investigators in the Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit determined that the Kemps’ Brooklyn home was one of several properties defendants Koltun and Haber, an attorney, fraudulently used to secure a $225,000 mortgage, according to the complaint. The defendants are charged with using the money from the mortgage to pay down a large debt related to another real estate scam on Long Island, New York.
Joseph Nykian and Nitza Jones are charged with forging power of attorney in order to take out a $300,000 mortgage on a home located at 1234 St. Marks Ave, Brooklyn, New York, without the owner’s consent. Defendants Nykian and Jones are the first the Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit indicted on charges of Residential Mortgage Fraud, which went into effect November 1, 2008. Nykian and Jones, in addition to Residential Mortgage Fraud, are charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Forgery in the Second Degree.
Alexander Landy was an attorney admitted to the New York State Bar Association in 2003, but by 2004, according to the indictment, he had already become involved in real estate fraud. In 2006, after he was accused of failing to properly safeguard clients’ escrow funds, he resigned as an attorney. In December 2004, Landy purchased a home, in his own name, funded by a Washington Mutual mortgage, for more than $500,000. Though Landy ran the title agency responsible for filing the deed and mortgage, he never filed either with the Property Clerk’s Office and never paid the mortgage, according to the indictment. With no deed or mortgage recorded, Landy was able to sell the building without paying Washington Mutual. Landy is charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree. The investigation is continuing.
Margareth Blanc, a New York City Corrections Officer, is charged with fraudulently collecting more than $30,000 in Section 8 rental subsidies, while living in a home owned by her sister, and using an unsuspecting straw buyer to mask her sister’s ownership of the home. According to the complaint, the straw buyer believed she was doing Blanc and her sister a favor, by placing the title in her name. The defendant is charged with forging Section 8 applications in the straw buyer’s name and intercepting the subsidy payments, which she then kept. The straw buyer transferred the title back to Blanc’s sister, and though it was illegal for Blanc to receive rental assistance while living in the home of a family member, she continued to collect the subsidies, according to the complaint. On December 2, 2009, Blanc was arrested on charges of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree.
Deric Nelson is charged with filing a bogus deed in the Brooklyn Register’s Office, which made it appear as though he owned a building he had previously sold. This allowed him to attempt to rent apartments and collect rent from unsuspecting tenants. On January 21, 2004, Nelson sold 467-469 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, to a developer, who renovated the dilapidated commercial property and turned it into a residential condominium. In November 2009, Nelson filed a fraudulent, back-dated deed, which made it appear as though he had transferred the property from himself to himself, on January 21, 2004, according to the indictment. Though the transfer actually transferred nothing, the City Register listed Nelson as the new owner. He then demanded rent from tenants, rented vacant units, and changed locks on some common areas of the building, according to the indictment. Nelson is charged with Attempted Grand Larceny in the First Degree, Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree.
Alan Rocoff, an attorney, was the court-appointed referee for the sale of a foreclosed church, at 2525 Snyder Ave, New York. Rocoff auctioned the church in 2005, for more than $300,000, which included a profit, after paying down all debts, of more than $200,000. Instead of turning the remaining funds over to the court, for the previous owners to claim, Rocoff pocketed the money himself, according to the indictment. Rocoff has been suspended from the practice of law in New York State. Rocoff is charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.
Russell Pitt and Nathen Farkas are charged with selling the home and keeping the proceeds. The owner of 1316 Dumont Ave., New York, an old friend of Pitt, was in danger of falling into arrears on her mortgage payments. Pitt offered to help, by getting the mortgage refinanced, and introduced her to Farkas. The defendants then convinced her to grant Farkas power of attorney over the property, but promised it would only be for the purposes of refinancing, according to the indictment. Both defendants were charged in a similar scam in 2007, and in that case, Farkas pleaded guilty and repaid his share of the proceeds, $60,000, but Pitt’s case is still pending, while the court determines whether he is competent to stand trial.
Earl Davis is charged in multiple scams involving rental apartments. In the first case, Davis is charged with posing as the owner of 527 Macon St., New York, to show an apartment and collect $3,000 – first and last months’ rent – from an unsuspecting potential tenant. Davis had access to the building because of a business relationship with its actual owner, Thomas Lawson. In that case, Davis is charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. The second case involving Davis also includes Lawson. In this case, Davis was in contract to purchase a Greene Avenue, New York, building from Lawson, but when Lawson learned Davis would not be able to secure funding, he took Davis to court to terminate their contract. Nevertheless, according to the indictment, Davis rented out an apartment in the building. When the tenant learned Davis did not own the building, he refused to make rent payments to Davis. Davis is charged with breaking into the apartment and assaulting the tenant, in an attempt to collect rent. In that case, Davis is charged with Burglary in the Second Degree and Assault in the Third Degree. In a third case, Davis is charged with placing a Craigslist ad for a rental apartment in a building he had formerly managed. He rented the apartment and collected $16,250, for the entire year’s rent, up front, and gave the tenant a forged lease, according to the indictment. In this case, Davis is charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree.
Todd Graham is charged with Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree. Graham also placed an ad on Craigslist for a rental apartment in a building he neither owned nor managed, according to the indictment. Graham is charged with collecting the first month’s rent and security deposit from two different people, for the same apartment.
Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, New York State Senator Carl Kruger and US Senator Charles E. Schumer announced the indictments.
These charges are the results of investigations by the District Attorney’s Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit, which was created within the Rackets Division, in February 2009, with the assistance of an $875,000 federal grant secured by US Senator Charles E. Schumer .
Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said, “The diversity of crimes committed by all of these defendants shows the lengths to which some unscrupulous people will go to enrich themselves illegally. The arrests and indictments should serve as a strong warning to all who still think that they will devise some new scheme and get away with Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud related crimes. No matter how creative they think they are, no matter what lengths they go to avoid detection, they will be caught and prosecuted. I would like to thank Senator Schumer and Senator Kruger for their help and support as we tackle this relatively new form of crime.”
Sen. Kruger said, “With mortgage fraud gaining status as the ‘crime of choice’ among those who prey on the elderly and other vulnerable residents, I applaud the efforts of District Attorney Hynes in aggressively pursuing those who perpetrate this crime and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Senator Schumer said, “This Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit at the Brooklyn DA’s Office has proved yet again to be the perfect tool to prevent scam artists from preying on Brooklyn residents during the ongoing economic and housing crises. New Yorkers have suffered for too long because of scam artists who feel they can take advantage of people without any repercussions. I am proud to have secured the federal funding needed to establish this outstanding unit and I would like to congratulate District Attorney Hynes and the first-rate prosecutors in this unit for working so hard to make this endeavor so successful.”
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.
The cases were investigated by Detective Investigator Kevin McAleese, Detective Investigator Michael Seminara, and Supervising Detective Investigator Robert Intartaglio. The investigation was supervised by Assistant Chief Investigator George Terra and Chief Investigator Joseph Ponzi.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Michelle Malone and Andrea Clarke, Executive Assistant District Attorney Kevin Richardson and Richard Farrell, Chief of the Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit. Michael Vecchione is Chief of the Rackets Division.